I'm A Former Trader Who Now Owns A Food Truck: Ask Me Anything

The following is an interview I conducted with Tyrone Greene, with whom I started chatting when I visited his food truck, The Dark Side of the Moo. He's a former trader of precious metals who has made the leap to leave Wall Street and work for himself, and I think his story will be of tremendous value to WSO. Enjoy!

1. How did you break into trading? Was it your first job after university?

Trading was something I wanted to do for a long time but naturally it is competitive. I started in back office, then moved to risk management, then to middle office and eventually into front office. It was down to two things, hard work and luck. There was a re-organisation of front office when a new head took over. One of the actions was to shift some of the older high earners out and get some fresh meat. I was in the right place at the right time. It took 6 years, 5 promotions, and 3 countries (I started in London, moved to Toronto then finally New York to become a trader).

2. Trading is obviously a very high-stress world and has a steep learning curve. How did you adjust to life on the floor, and how did you handle the stress?

Well working for a Bank we were called trading "upstairs." Downstairs refers to the actual trading floor or pits where you see the shouting going on, that's more stressful. It's a good question. There is no real magic formula to handling the stress, work hard party hard! It's important to not get caught up in the numbers or you won't pull the trigger. A small position is 10 lots of Gold, that's 10 x 100 oz. At $1600 an ounce it's $1,600,000 notional value. Don't think of it as a $1.6m bet, just 10 chips, beans, whatever, works. You have to have a gamblers mentality. Hate to be blunt but you need balls, you can't learn that, with that the stress is less daunting.

3. Where did you get the idea for Dark Side of the Moo? Did you plan to do it from the start of your career, or did the idea just come to you one day at your desk?

The idea came at dinner. The day after Thanksgiving a few weeks after Superstorm Sandy. I was at dinner with friends and we started talking about working for ourselves and what could be done. Someone (might have been me I don't recall) mentioned how there were a bunch of foodtrucks that came into Hoboken where I live in the aftermath due to the flooding and no power. That was it. A light bulb went off in my head and I thought, "I want to do this."

4. When did you finally make the decision to leave finance?

It was a slow process. I lost my job at the Bank in 2009. I was getting burnt out and increasingly disillusioned. An outsider might presume it's a meritocracy where the best trader make's the most money. Not true. It's very much a case of shared information about who's doing what, picking offpeople befoer they pick you off. We were a small Bank, when I ran the precious metals options book you'd know which Bank used which broker. If we heard that Goldman or JPM was taking a large punt I would just piggyback and copy. Information is everything.
So after leaving I was in no rush to jump back in. A few months later I got a job at a hedge fund. Now for the big bucks right? But that was a terrible environment, every few hours "How much money are you making?" After 3 weeks I left.

Then I started trading for myself while I tried to figure out what to do next. A good day led to another, etc and before I knew it I had my job, prop trading for myself. It was great fun being my own boss, seeing the profit and loss and knowing how much I made. But, after about two years I was getting claustrophic. I'd spend 18 hours watching the screens or my iphone. I needed to get out of the house. So what to do next? I wrote a book about my trading experience. Then I decided to go into business anaylsis/consulting for trading platforms. It wasn't very exciting but there was an element of creativity that appealed to me. While studying for certification Sandy came along and that was that. It really was a case of one day I'm a trader, the next day I'm going to set up a food truck, an epiphany if you will.

5. How did trading prepare you for running your own business?

Most important lesson is networking. I hated that notion before but you never know who can do what for you down the line. Information is everything. Befoer it was who is trading what, now it's "There's this event..." Another aspect would putting your balls on the line. Every day in trading you do it and then you need to figure out what do you do if it goes wrong? Am I right but the market is wrong? Do I take the hit or double down? Someone once told me, can you explain why you have the position you do? Why are you bullish Gold right here, right now? If you can't then get out. So similarly I had to have conviction in what I was offering, on the days it didn't work you have to ask yourself objectively (if that's possible) "Am I doing the right thing? Do I need to change me menu/marketing/banding, etc."
Other than that I learnt more from working in McDonald's for 5 years!

6. How did you get Dark Side of the Moo off the ground?

It was easier to start up than you might think. I might have set a land speed record. But making it actually work took longer. I went from my 'A-ha' moment to hitting the streets in 4 months. When I get into something I give it absolutely everything so I spent 60-80 hours a week researching menus, ideas, legal issues, health code, tax, all kind of things. Once I figured out a truck would be difficult to run in Hoboken due to law changes I then searched for a cart/trailer. I found a vendor in China, looked into the importing consequences and pushed the button. I started with pulled pork and that was all. I'm told mine is pretty decent and it seemed that it would be easy to serve. I figured burgers would be a suitable menu addition. I couldn't think of a good name related to pulled pork so tried burgers. "Dark Side Of The Moo" came to me in a dream and I woke up laughing. Googled it, then took it. I held an online logo design contest with the mandate of "cartoon cow but not chilidish, non-descript expression, sunglasses." I love my logo. The winner was from Jordan. The internet allows so much for a business like this these days like social media. I had to learn Facebook, I never had an account before this.

7. Do you ever have days when you miss trading?

None. I still follow the markets. My background is Economics. The markets are the purest form of perfect competition in the real world. More buyers than sellers, the price goes up, simple. [NOTE, I am aware that it is NOT as pure as I had previously thought]. There are times when I think I can see a big move coming and do nothing and kick myself when it happens. I still put on the odd trade but nothing major, just for kicks. The rush I get now from someone posting a great review or a customer coming up to me and saying "That was amazing" is huge. I also feel it's real. Sure making money is real but what did I do to make the world a better place?

8. If we want to read more about this in your book, what is it called and how can we order it?

Sure it's called Gold Fix: Life on The Bullion Desk by Fabian Krazinski. It's an ebook on Amazon. It was very therapeutic writing it. I'm looking forward to a sequel, working title "Trading-In Commodities: From Precious Metals to Pork Bellies."

Comments (44)

Apr 8, 2014

going to hunt this down in Hoboken.

Apr 8, 2014
Bobb:

going to hunt this down in Hoboken.

But it's hoboken....

Apr 10, 2014

Yes and Jersey City.

Apr 10, 2014

Would be delighted to have you try us

Apr 8, 2014

I am curious to know what kind of revenue a food truck can bring in...

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Apr 8, 2014

How much revenue are you bringing in? (ballpark)

What are your margins looking like?

Apr 10, 2014

Margins are healthy. Restaurants aim for 4:1 on food but this ratio drops the higher end you go. They rely on selling alcohol to survive. We have lower overhead (but much greater risk) and aim for 3:1, but it varies. That's just food. Add labor, insurance, rent, permits it disappears quickly.

Apr 9, 2014

Look up food truck economics on Pricenomics. Interesting read on food trucks and all the nitty gritty

Apr 9, 2014

After reading this I actually searched around a bit and did read this article. Definitely interesting...

Apr 10, 2014

Isn't everyone. My first day I brought in $10. Good days can run to $5k. Good trucks with good locations can easy bring in $500k p.a.

Apr 8, 2014

A very interesting read. In my sleepy part of the mid-west the real winner with this food truck craze has been the owner of a liquor store who rents out his downtown parking lot to food trucks.

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Apr 10, 2014

Smart guy. Every municipality has it's own rules about what you can and can't do. Make's expansion difficult.

Apr 9, 2014

Why is AMA in the title?

Apr 10, 2014

Ask Me Anything

Apr 8, 2014

1-2 extra employees on the truck?

I imagine margins aren't too bad if food costs don't soar (no organic).

Apr 10, 2014

It is one chef and me full time. Now it's the busy season and a second vehicle is on the way total staff will will be 6. I customise my menu to my market. I'll be involved in farmers markets this Summer and will have organic procude and grass-fed beef.

Apr 8, 2014

@justjoshinyou I can't tell if you're trolling or not..

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Apr 10, 2014

Neither can I

Apr 8, 2014

I wouldn't post margins or profits here because if chicks google your name (and their somewhat smart) ... let's just say betches be crey crey.

Apr 8, 2014

This sounds like an idiotic life....... I'm not even being mean.
Please for the love of God, don't waste your valuable MS on me.

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Apr 9, 2014

Gee, I sure wish we were all as cool as you.

Metal. Music. Life. www.headofmetal.com

Apr 9, 2014
LeveragedSelloutX:

This sounds like an idiotic life....... I'm not even being mean.

Please for the love of God, don't waste your valuable MS on me.

LeveragedWanker - you probably never worked in banking your whole life or have just started. There is more to life than money when you have it. With an attitude like that you'll crash and burn a few times, it will humble you out. Good luck.

OP - very cool idea the food truck, I am seeing a lot of my friends leaving the floor to go and start something they always wanted to do. A friend of mine is now going to help coach a premier league football club. Another one is selling shoes that she creates. One day i'll break out of my golden handcuffs, just you wait!

Apr 10, 2014

I'll happily respond if I know what the question is. Sorry don't know what MS means

Apr 9, 2014
In The Flesh:

...when I visited his food truck, The Dark Side of the Moo

Mad props for the name, I LOL'd.

In case the interviewee is available for answering questions, there must be a tremendous life style change from trading to running a food truck. How was it handling that change? Also (apologies in advance if this seems blunt), do you genuinely believe this has potential to be a long term career with a sustainable income?

Apr 10, 2014

Thanks, I get a lot of smiles with the name. Honestly the change wasn't bad for me but I'm the type that's not afraid to get his hands dirty. Many, many days I'd stand there and ask myself "What am I doing?!" but the satisfaction you get from building something tangible is immense. Like planting a seed and watching it grow, it feels like a miracle. Your second statement, not blunt, reasonable question. I went in to this with the view of see where this goes. I believe it will take 3 years to understand what the full potential is. I set intermediary goals. Last year one vehicle, see if I like it, see if people like what I'm doing, etc. In 2 weeks I started making money, in 2 months I started making a realistic income, in 3 months I had earned back all start up costs. I've ordered a second vehicle and am looking for a restaurant. As I see it right now, by the end of this season I won't be in the trenches anymore, it will largely run itself with minimal oversight. The worst case is it will be a side earner generating 6 figs net. franchising? Selling out? World domination? All possibilities.

Apr 10, 2014

In what ways can you oversee the truck from afar? I never met a bartender who didn't try to rationalize skimming a few bucks off the top.

Apr 9, 2014

Dark Side of the Moo is pretty cool; they have a nice selection of different sausages (made from a variety of game--e.g., alligator). They frequent the pier in Hoboken and it's nice to have a few beers (on the pier) and then grab a bite.

Kudos for going after something you really enjoy! I'll say hi and introduce myself the next time around!

Apr 10, 2014

Thanks chron3k. I love what I do.

Apr 9, 2014

I liked this, but you should take the Ask Me Anything out of the title.

Apr 10, 2014

See below. He's answering questions now.

Metal. Music. Life. www.headofmetal.com

Apr 9, 2014

Great to hear about your new career! Not sure if you've seen this yet, but Pat Flynn (Smart Passive Income guy) just launched FoodTruckr to help guys like you. Might be worth a look if you haven't seen it already:

http://foodtruckr.com/about/

Apr 10, 2014

Definitely worth visiting his truck/cart. Menu is unusual and the food is tasty!

Apr 10, 2014

@Bobb : I know, that's so arbitrary and bizarre. Past 11pm drunk crowds must be peak hours!

Metal. Music. Life. www.headofmetal.com

Apr 10, 2014

Would you mind expanding on your experience with the logo competition? What was turnaround time like and what costs are involved for something like that?

Apr 11, 2014

my best friend's half-sister makes $74 an hour on the computer . She has been out of a job for 8 months but last month her check was $20328 just working on the computer for a few hours. go to website ................ w-w-w.j-o-b-s-e-g.c-o-m

Apr 11, 2014

Drive that baby outside KKR, and I'll pop down with H.

Apr 13, 2014

This is very sad, but warms my heart when quitters find all kinds of excuses to quit. World needs discoball makers too.

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Apr 14, 2014

Why would you choose this business? I bet it's not a easy job though.

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Apr 14, 2014

Didn't read other comments. Just curious, how interested in food were you before you started this? Did you do a lot of cooking?

Or was this more of a - I'm tired of looking at a screen all day I need to talk to people sort of decision? I've noticed a lot of people getting technology "burnout", needing to detox these days

Menu looks fuckin' tasty

Apr 14, 2014

Interesting story. I went from the food business to finance, and you the other way around. I wish you the best!

Apr 14, 2014

Logo and menu are awesome. Definitely wanna try the kangaroo burg

Apr 16, 2014

Thank you for your post, great read!

What do you think are the growth opportunities of your business once it reaches maturity?

Apr 18, 2014
Comment
Apr 19, 2014
Apr 19, 2014

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